Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has claimed victory in the first round of the country’s bitterly divisive constitutional referendum, with opposition forces complaining of large-scale rigging and violations. Unofficial results from Saturday’s first round showed 56% approval to 43% rejection on a low turnout of 33%, with a clear no win in Cairo, one of the 10 governorates where polling took place. The referendum is to be held in the country’s remaining 17 governorates next Saturday – where prospects for a no win are poorer. The figures were reported by the Freedom and Justice party (FJP), the political wing of the Brotherhood, which has been accurate in previous elections.
If, as expected, the trend is confirmed, the referendum will bolster the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, who was elected president on a 51% mandate last June. But no end is in sight to the country’s grave political crisis.
Sit-in protests against the constitution were continuing on Sunday night in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square and at the presidential palace in Heliopolis, where nine people were killed last week.
Gehad El-Haddad, a senior Brotherhood and FJP adviser, said: “We thank Allah and the people of Egypt for such honourable practice of democratic participation and although approval [is] lower than expected, [we are] glad it’s yes.”
The opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) claimed 66% were against the controversial draft basic law. It said it had detected “unprecedented rigging,” including 750 violations. These included unstamped ballot papers, the names of deceased people on lists and the absence of observers at polling stations. The Egyptian Coalition for Human Rights reported the use of religious slogans and financial inducements for those voting yes.